New Designated Emphasis in Environmental Humanities

toxic sublime: oil rig and sunset

New DE in EH

Beginning this year, graduate students have the opportunity to pursue a designated emphasis (DE) in the interdisciplinary field of the environmental humanities (EH). The DE is a long time coming, as there has been talk since 2010 of adding a minor, major, or emphasis in EH to reflect the growing critical interest in the environment shared by students and faculty across campus. Environmental humanities, as defined by the DE’s new website, is an emergent, interdisciplinary subfield of environmental studies that is “uniquely suited to engage questions of values and justice and to take up problems related to the narration, framing, and representation of environmental crises.” UC Davis, which served as the host to the Association for Literature and the Environment (ASLE) conference in 2019, has steadily grown its reputation for being a productive place to pursue ecologically inflected humanistic research. The DE will help add structure, community, and resources to support graduate students and faculty in this growing field.

With more than 35 affiliated faculty members from 17 departments (8 faculty from English alone), the EH DE is truly interdisciplinary. Louis Warren (History), the current chair of the DE, and Liz Miller (English) have covered the DE’s first year of administrative and teaching responsibilities, co-teaching the required course “Introduction to the Environmental Humanities” (EVH 200) this past winter. While the objectives of the core course will remain the same, each year a new pair of professors from different disciplines will teach it, an arrangement designed to expose students to a rotating mix of methodologies, texts, and perspectives. 

While interdisciplinary work has its institutional and methodological challenges, the fresh stream of new perspectives and archives can have surprising and productive effects on one’s research and writing. Miller notes that her own recent book project, Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion, benefited significantly from the interdisciplinary breadth of EH and looks forward to how the conversations in the DE will shape her future work. Warren, whose own field of environmental history is interdisciplinary by nature, notes that his recent work incorporates more literary sources than previously, in part thanks to the Environments and Societies Colloquium he used to organize at UC Davis, which frequently saw literary scholars discussing their ecologically inflected work. 

Warren and Miller hope that the new DE will help graduate students and faculty meet and collaborate with colleagues in other departments. For graduate students interested in pursuing the designated emphasis: your coursework must include the EVH 200 core course as well as two relevant four-unit courses that have been approved for the DE. You can find a current list of these rotating courses on the website. Two affiliated courses to look forward to for fall quarter of 2022: Critical Environmental Justice Studies (to be taught by Jonathan London) and Ecologies of Infrastructure (to be taught by Brett Milligan). Next year’s core course will be taught by Tobias Menely (English) and Marisol de la Cadena (Anthropology). Students or faculty with questions or who want to join the EH campus listserv should contact Louis Warren, chair of the DE in environmental humanities, for more details.